Monday, 18 May 2009


Right now it’s May and it’s bog myrtle weather. Yes, it’s raining again. As you probably worked out from its name, bog myrtle (Myrica gale) likes it wet and it grows in great swathes on the spongy, peaty soils of the north and west.

It’s such a common yet fairly low profile plant in Highland Scotland that you hardly notice it in its shrubby twiggy winter state.

Lots of bog myrtle here – the brownish colour in the foreground. Photographed at the top of Glen Ogle, near Killin. (Pic 1)

In late spring it coves itself in little reddish catkins. Cleverly, these appear ahead of the leaves, to allow unimpeded pollination by wind. (Pic 2)

In Scotland, there has been a bit of a flurry of interest in it in recent times, and it sometimes gets called ‘Scotland’s tea tree oil’ because of its healing and soothing properties. It’s especially associated with caring for sensitive skins and is also said to help with acne.

(Pic 3, below right: near Enard Bay, north of Ullapool, last June)

Traditionally, it’s also used for keeping midges away. However, the chances are that if you are in a place where bog myrtle thrives, then you are probably deep into midge territory as well, given their preference for wet places. Continuing the Highland theme, it’s also the plant badge of the Clan Campbell. (As that’s my family name, I feel duty bound to point this out.)

Finally, it also happens to have a great scent – the very essence of those summer holidays in the Highlands. More on
bog myrtle products here.
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